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GOP bill would bar businesses from requesting vaccine proof

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A bill that would prohibit businesses from asking someone for proof they've been vaccinated in order to receive service is set for a public hearing Wednesday.

The bill, with a long list of Republican co-sponsors, would ban both businesses and government agencies from requesting proof of vaccination as a condition of service or in order to get access into a building or event.

Just a few blocks from the Capitol, the Robinia Courtyard, a collection of three restaurants, has held three outdoor concerts so far according to co-owner Armando Magaña. For each show, the courtyard required customers show proof of vaccination in order to get in.

"While Dane County is doing amazing in terms of vaccinations and COVID cases, I think we still always want to be on the safe side," Magaña said.

One of the bill's co-authors, Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) said he doesn't want anyone compelled to prove they've received a vaccine that does not have full FDA approval. Murphy added he was also looking to protect people's privacy.

"They don't want strangers asking them about what kind of medical care they've had," Murphy said. "And I believe in protecting it and I think most of my colleagues do also."

Critics of the bill said it was hypocritical of Republicans who, at the onset of the pandemic, said they were deferring to local control because they trusted individual communities and businesses to set policies that were best for their own situation.

Magaña said knowing everyone in attendance at the concerts was fully vaccinated gave Robinia's ownership confidence they could safely host a gathering of more than 300 people.

"I think in matters of public health...I think businesses should have a pretty big say in what they allow," Magaña said. "I mean it's why we force people to wear shoes and shirts."

Murphy said the bill was not anti-vaccine, adding both he and his wife have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Murphy argued his colleagues were not abandoning their commitment to small government either because protecting individual freedoms was an extension of that principle.

"Well we talk about local control and certainly, I support local control but there's a level of government smaller than local control and that's the individual," Murphy said. "And so we're trying to protect individual rights."

In the end, the bill seems likely destined for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' veto pen. When asked about the bill Tuesday, Evers said he believed there were times an entity was justified in seeking proof of vaccination.

"I do believe in some instances, it is a reasonable request and that's my starting point," Evers said.

Another bill scheduled for a hearing Wednesday would prohibit the use of someone's vaccination status as a consideration in a wide variety of areas, ranging from eligibility to adopt a child to the calculation of insurance rates.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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